This post describes how to get advanced and same day tickets for families and groups to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC. It also describes the exhibits and other practical information relevant to your visit. Getting a trip to Washington, DC together can be stressful, especially if you are planning to bring a whole group of people or a school group. The procedures to get tickets at several locations are confusing and can be intimidating. Our Visitors Guide and How to Get Tickets to the Holocaust Museum can help you plan your visit.
Check out our DC Tourism Guide, with budget advice, travel guides, and information about local Washington DC attractions, including a post comparing the different bus tours in DC as well as a list of Free Things to Do.
A visit inside the Holocaust Memorial Museum itself does not require tickets, but the Permanent Exhibit is a must-see and it does require tickets for half of the year. For information on what you can see without tickets, as well as security procedures and directions, check out our guide to the Holocaust Museum.
Officially, the Holocaust Museum is located at 100 Raoul Wallenburg Place, but the main tourist entrance is located at 205 14th St. in southwest D.C. Use this link for directions to the Holocaust Museum from anywhere in the Washington, DC area.
The closest Metro is the Smithsonian (Blue/Orange/Silver) Stop. Be sure you use the Independence Ave exit and not the Mall exit. When you exit the station on Independence Ave SW, just head straight two blocks to 14th St SW and you’ll see the museum across the street to the left.
Some nearby streets have metered parking but they are subject to hour limits and rush hour restrictions. There are a few nearby commercial parking facilities. You can compare prices at these garages and reserve a space at the one of your choice through Parking Panda. This service makes the entire parking experience stress-free, and can be quite the lifesaver for drivers in Washington DC.
From March to August, the Permanent Exhibit requires timed tickets for entry. The tickets are timed for 1 hour. This means, if you obtain a ticket for 10 am, you have from that time until 11 am to enter the Permanent Exhibit. If you are unable to get tickets in advance or want to have some flexibility with your visit to Washington, DC; the Holocaust Memorial Museum does offer same day tickets. Tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 10 a.m. One person may ask for up to 20 passes.
NOTE: With proper identification, members of the military, law enforcement, firefighters and government employees are entitled to obtain non-timed passes. They must enter the museum and request their complimentary tickets at the information desk.
What time should I line up for Holocaust Museum tickets?
During the spring season, when there are many school groups visiting the city, the line for same-day tickets begins to form as early as 7 am. If you arrive later the staff will often manage the line so you don’t have to wait if they don’t think there will be tickets left.
Where to get same day tickets to Holocaust Memorial Museum?
The pass line forms next to the building in the alley with benches. Staff distribute the passes from the 14th Street side of the alley to allow those with passes to proceed into the building. The same day ticket line is one block away from the Smithsonian Metro (Blue/Orange/Silver) Station.
Get Same Day Tickets Online
Starting in 2016, there will be a limited number of same day tickets for Holocaust Memorial Museum available online beginning at 6am. You can purchase these through the same link as advanced tickets.
Below are step-by-step instructions for getting advanced tickets to the Permanent Exhibit, whether you are bringing your family of 4 or a group of 50 students. Please note, you may not book more than 6 months in advance for the Holocaust Museum.
If you are going between March and August and are more than 40 people, follow the instructions below. If you are less than 40, jump to the second set of instructions.
Step 2 – Tickets for large groups may be reserved up to 6 months prior to the visit. Groups are given timed tickets, starting at 8:30am with the last group going through at 3pm. Link for group tickets.
Step 3 – Scroll to section: Groups of 40 or More and click on the link to advanced group reservation system. It will tell you the earliest and latest dates that you may make a reservation. On the side of the page there are a list of options, click on Make A Reservation.
Step 4 – This is where it starts to get a little tricky. If you have a group of fewer than 120, Select Permanent Exhibition from the drop down menu (there is no other option) and enter the number of adults and children into the appropriate boxes. Select the search dates that you are looking for from the menus, then hit search.
Step 4a – If you are travelling with a group larger than 120 people, you will need to break the group into smaller sections, and make a reservation for each individually. When you are shown a list of available dates (Step 5) select one with times close to each other, so that your groups can go in back to back and be finished close together.
Step 5 – You will be taken to 1 of 2 screens. If there are no available tickets in the date range you selected, it will tell you and allow you to return to the previous screen to try again. If there are tickets available in your date range, you will see a list of dates with the times and number of tickets available. Select the one that works best for you.
Step 6– You will be taken to a screen and told you have a pending reservation that they will hold for 20 minutes. If you have never made a reservation on this system before, click on the link that says: Complete My Reservation so you can provide information about your group. If you have used it before, login to your account, otherwise you will need to create an account with your information.
Step 7 – You will then be taken to a Confirmation screen with additional information, and will receive a confirmation email. You are done!
Make sure you take note of the arrival instructions, as groups arrive on the 15th Street side of the Museum, not the main entrance on 14th. Plan to arrive a half hour early, and have your group line up single file from the entrance. Inform your group that they will be going through security.
Groups of less than 40
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The Holocaust Museum is open daily with the exception of Yom Kippur and Christmas Day.
The entrance to the Permanent Exhibit closes at 4:30pm to allow ample viewing of the exhibit.
The Holocaust Museum has its own police force and security protocols. Entrance to the museum requires airport-like security. (Keep your shoes on, though!) Any electronics and bags will need to go through the scanner. While closed food and drinks are allowed, there is no eating, drinking or gum inside the museum.
Open water bottles are allowed, but you will likely be asked to take a sip before they’ll let it in. Other beverages are not allowed if already opened.
Can I take photographs at the Holocaust Memorial Museum? Photography is now allowed inside the museum and exhibits, as long as it is done without flash and without interfering in the experience of others. Photographs in or around the security area, however, are prohibited.
There are many things to see at the Holocaust Museum, but the Permanent Exhibit is a must-see and the one most people are talking about after their visit. A visit to the museum can be a full day experience, most of it spent in the permanent exhibit. It is recommended to reserve at least 90 minutes to fully experience this part of the museum. Based on your interests, you can easily spend more.
It is very moving and follows a chronological path through the times leading up to, during and after the Holocaust. There are 3 floors each with it’s own time-frame.
What is most memorable is the passport-like book you receive as you enter. It has the story of a real person who went through World War II and the events of the Holocaust. The book is chronological like the exhibit so as you walk through the museum, you’ll also have a personal story of what that person experienced during this same time. At the end of the exhibit, you’ll find out what happened – it can be a heart-wrenching moment, so there is a place for reflection at the exit of the permanent exhibit.
As you start at the top of the Permanent Exhibit, the museum focuses on the events leading up to the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazis 1933-1939. There are two films on this floor: The Nazi Rise to Power (13 minutes) and Antisemitism (14 minutes).
The middle level of the exhibit focuses 1940-45 with the events most associated with the Holocaust – gas chambers, mass murder and the Nazi policy towards the Jews. The main focus on this floor is concentration camps. Before you reach it, you may be able to sense it – a collection of over 4,000 shoes. Shoes were one of the many items confiscated from prisoners as they entered concentration camps.
The Final Chapter exhibit highlights the liberation of these camps and the aftermath of the Holocaust. Exiting the exhibit, you are introduced to a continuous looping video of testimony from Holocaust survivors.
Technically, this is a special exhibit but it has been a part of the museum for many years. It follows the story of a child, Daniel, in Nazi Germany from 1933-1945. It is interactive and includes many videos as you walk through a recreated version of his homes where you can touch, feel and listen.
This exhibit is a way to teach younger children (recommended aged 8+) about the Holocaust for those who may find the Permanent Exhibit too much. For more about visiting the Holocaust Museum with kids, read our post here.
Timing: Daniel’s Story is meant for children, so it is a shorter visit. Most families will find it takes about 45 minutes to walk through, watch all the videos and experience it. At the end, there is an area with young visitors can reflect on what they learned.
Continuing with an exhibit for children, the Children’s Tile Wall is in the lower level. There are over 3,000 tiles that were created and painted by American students in reaction to learning about the Holocaust in the 1980s.
Downstairs you will find special rotating exhibits that focus on other aspects of the Holocaust as well as genocide acts in other countries and times.
Timing: These special exhibits are shorter than the permanent exhibit and take about an hour to visit.
There is a Museum Cafe, though it is a separate building from the actual museum. You will have to go through security to enter the cafe building as well as to re-enter the museum. Please note that you cannot take food in the the museum.
The Cafe has pre-made as well as hot food, often focusing on traditional Jewish dishes. For groups, there is a boxed lunch option as well.
The Museum Cafe closes at 430pm.